The Same As He Ever Was: Mike Richards and the L.A. Kings

Hockey, The Rev — By on May 9, 2012 at 6:00 am


If you’ve been watching the 2012 NHL Playoffs (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you know there’s been no shortage of stars rising to the challenge.

Big names like Brad Richards, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin have come up big. Young superstars like Claude Giroux and Zach Parise have put their talents on full display. Netminders like Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist and Mike Smith have stolen the show and a few games.

But no player has been any more important to his team’s postseason success than Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings.

Having been privileged enough to watch Mike Richards night-in-and-night-out for his entire career prior to this season as a Flyers fan, I already knew what the Kings were getting in the former Philadelphia captain. The man is as good of a defensive forward as there is in hockey and as versatile as they come. He can score goals, rack up points and play anywhere from in front of the net, to in the corners and even at the point on the power play. But Richards’ real bread and butter is his defensive prowess and physical play, and those are the traits that have made him arguably the most important cog outside of Jonathan Quick in the eighth-seeded Kings’ run to the Western Conference Finals.

Make no mistake, Richards’ teammates have been brilliant. Captain Dustin Brown leads LA in goals and points this postseason. He leads the entire NHL in playoff plus-minus at plus-9, and he’s drawn more penalties than anyone I can remember through two playoffs series. Anze Kopitar has been his usual fantastic self. Drew Doughty has been a workhorse. And everyone has chipped in to help the Kings become the first team to advance to the Conference Finals, where they will face the Phoenix Coyotes. (Yes, the Coyotes, who finished sixth in points in the West, and the eighth-seeded Kings are in the conference finals.)

But it’s been Richards who is out there for the most important shifts. He’s often the guy who starts the game, coming up with some early and huge goals, tone-setting hits and all-around dominant shifts. And he’s always the guy out there seemingly every other shift come the third period, as the Kings are holding the lead and looking to shut down the opposition. Nothing he does is flashy. He doesn’t have the shot of Kovalchuk or Ovechkin, the grace of Brad Richards or magician moves like Giroux. He’s not a burner or a giant. He’s just the best defensive center in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a guy who leads by example with every shift.

Here in Philadelphia, fans and even the organization that inked him to a 12-year contract questioned whether or not Mike Richards could lead a team to Stanley Cup. This despite his clear desire on the ice, his Conference Finals appearances and even getting to within two victories of hoisting the most prestigious trophy in sports. Well, if Philadelphians have been staying up and watching, they’ve seen he absolutely can.

There is no question he has what he never did in Philadelphia with standout goaltender Jonathan Quick, but he’s playing the same unmistakable Mike Richards game he played all those years on Broad Street. Mike Richards is the same as he ever was, and that’s a guy who’s capable of helping bring an eight seed to the conference finals and just eight wins away from the Cup.

Rev. P. Revere

Reverend Paul Revere, aka Joe Boland, is a sports blogger out of Philadelphia whose life revolves around sports 365 and a quarter days per year. Keep up with Rev at his own personal blog, The House That Glanville Built and on Twitter.

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    4 Comments

  • It was a shame to see Richie go after 5 seasons in Philly, but he’s just now hitting 26 and hitting his stride as a player. Now I can only wonder what he would’ve looked like this season in Philly, now that we’re chilling at the crib.

    *kicks imaginary rock*

    -Ed.

    • Listen, the trade itself is hard to argue with looking long term. I mean, they turned Richards into a 23-year-old power forward and 20-year-old potential Richards-type player, so they got a ton of value. And it would foolish to say it was a bad deal.

      But when they did it, I was pissed. I’m a Richards guy. I always have been and always will be. I never understood the people around here, and there weren’t tons of them but enough, that questioned him because he partied off the ice when he was young. The man never dogged it for one second on the ice here in Philly and did everything. And he was the prototypical “Philadelphia” player, doing all the dirty work, playing his ass off, throwing huge hits, even fighting.

      Then there is this other factor: while the trade was a big part of shaping the Flyers this season, it’s undeniable that Richards is a far better player than both Schenn and Simmonds right now. Maybe one day one or both of those guys will be as good or better than Richards. Maybe they won’t. I think Schenn is going to be great and Simmonds an important cog. But the key word is think. I don’t know. No one does. We know Richards is a great two-way player. That’s why I was so upset to see him go.

      Having said that, I’m thrilled watching him thrive in LA this postseason, especially after a tough regular season where he was injured at times. I’m always going to be a Richards fan, and now with the Flyers officially sent packing, I’m rooting for the Kings with everything I have.

  • Joe Simmons says:

    Richards had so much upside that I didn’t think he would be let go by the Flyers. When the word hit that he was on the market I was shocked. Now he has proven to everyone that he is s a star. Simmonds may eventually be a better player but as of now I just can’t see it.

    Good post. Hockey breathes another breathe at TSFJ

    • I don’t see Simmonds ever being as good as Richards. Schenn is the guy with that potential, in my opinion. He was really the centerpiece of the deal and considered not only LA’s top prospect but one of the best prospects in the entire NHL.

      Only time will tell. In the meantime, we can sit back and watch Richards (and Carter for that matter) try to get his new team to hoist that grand trophy.

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